South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Blue (Dusky) Grouse

Dendragapus obscurus

Length: 18 - 20 inches Wingspan: 24 - 28 inches Seasonality: Likely extirpated from South Dakota
ID Keys: Gray-tip on dark tail, gray overall, orange comb above eyes (male), reddish neck sack surrounded by white feathers (male).

Blue Grouse - Dendragapus obscurusThe Blue Grouse is a large grouse of mountains forests of the West.  Only the 2 Sage Grouse species are larger amoung North American grouse species.  Observations of the species were made in the Black Hills during the 1800s, but the species was probably extirpated from the state by 1900 (Birds of South Dakota -- SDOU, 2001).  Reintroduction efforts since that time have evidently been unsuccessful, with no observed birds more than 2 years after any reintroduction attempt.  Note that the Blue Grouse is often split into 2 separate species, the Pacific Coast "Sooty" Grouse (Dendragapus fuliginosus), and the interior West "Dusky" Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus). 

Habitat: Summer habitat is generally deciduous and mixed forests, primarily along forest edges.  They move to higher elevation conifer forest during the winter months, primarily in dense stands.  

Diet: Conifer needles make up a large portion of the diet, especially during the winter months.  Also feeds on other plant material including berries, shoots and buds, leaves, and flowers.  Will also feed on insects.

Behavior: Primariliy forages on the ground during the summer months, when the diet includes many insects, berries, flowers, and leaves.  During the winter months, the diet is dominated by conifer needles, and foraging behavior changes, with birds foraging in evergreen trees. 

Nesting: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Loud deep hoots by the displaying male.  Also cackling and clucking sounds.

Migration: Semi-permanent residents throughout their range, although birds do make general moves from more open areas during breeding season to dense conifer forest during the winter.  

Similar Species: Spruce Grouse, Ruffed Grouse

Conservation Status: Extirpated from South Dakota, where they were once found in the Black Hills.  Still fairly common in the West, although forest management practices associated with the timber industry are detrimental to their survival.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Blue Grouse

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Blue Grouse"

3) Blue Grouse

Photo Information: August 18th, 2008 - Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Blue Grouse photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Blue Grouse - Range map
South Dakota Status: Blue Grouse were once found in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but were likely extirpated in the late 1800s.  Multiple reintroduction efforts have been made in the Black Hills in the latter part of the 20th century, evidently without success.  Note the range map above shows the range for all "Blue Grouse", including both "Dusky" and "Sooty".